The Kingsgate Voices concert in St Paul’s Church on Saturday, February 24 offered a pleasing mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Few in the audience will not have enjoyed being introduced to music new to them, and the choir performed with assurance and musicality.

For two items they were joined by a chamber consort, whose other members will not mind my picking out the oboist, Toby Corbett, a student at the Hampshire Specialist Music Course at Peter Symonds College, who took the lead in the difficult and intricate obligato writing in the Bach cantata which ended the first half of the programme. This music by the young Bach dates from his short employment at Mϋhlhausen, a time when he was finding his way as a composer.

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Aus der Tiefen, takes its core text from Psalm 130, ‘Out of the deep’, and gives us an early example of what would become one of his staples:  the church cantata. Kingsgate Voices here are giving us music outside the mainstream.

This could also be said of the concert’s opening piece, chosen to mark the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko, who died in 1912, and is remembered for his work collecting folk music and defining a distinct musical tradition for his country. Prayer for Ukraine sets a contemporary patriotic poem, and has become the country’s spiritual anthem. It’s an effective unaccompanied piece; music that you would not usually encounter.

The first part of the concert was completed by William Byrd’s Lamentations of Jeremiah, another early work, and the beautiful setting from which the programme took its title, ‘In Winter’s House’, by the contemporary composer Joanne Marsh.

This is demanding, deeply-felt music, and was performed expressively and persuasively by the choir.  This is what they do really well.

After the interval the programme ranged, as had the first, from the sixteenth century to the modern. The two verse anthems by Purcell were accompanied: for the first, Thy word is a lantern, Andrew Hayman, directed choir and soloists from the keyboard. For the extended setting of text from the Song of Songs, My Beloved Spake, the string quartet returned:  more music by a young composer, as Purcell was barely out of his teens. This a delightfully fresh and disarming spring-time composition, and was much enjoyed by the singers and by the audience, as it would have been by the pleasure-loving court of Charles II, worshipping at the Chapel Royal.

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Parry’s There is an Old Belief, James MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn and Charles Wood’s Latin Nunc Dimittis are better known, and meat and drink to this choir.

Stephen Paulus’s beautiful arrangement of a ‘folky’ tune he came across by chance gave real pleasure:  accessible music well sung.

Andrew Hayman conducted with good effect, and the choir responds to his musical direction.  The well-produced programme included full texts and an informative and discerning introduction to the music, whose author deserved to be credited.

Kingsgate Voices sing next on Saturday, May 18 at Holy Trinity Church, and on Saturday,  November 9 back in St Paul’s.

Review by Roger Lowman